Need Advice On How To Portray A Transgender Person In Art

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JohnArcadian

Need Advice On How To Portray A Transgender Person In Art

Postby JohnArcadian » Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:22 am

Hello. My name is John Arcadian and I'm an art director in the tabletop role-playing game industry. I'm looking for advice from the transgender community on how to portray a transgender person respectfully and accurately on a piece of cover art I am putting together for an upcoming book. The art will have all of the benchmarks of standard tabletop gaming cover art - action scenes, fantasy and sci-fi characters, etc. You can see examples at the link below:
https://www.google.com/search?q=tableto ... +cover+art

The art will also feature multiple characters of multiple ethnicities, backgrounds, looks, and cultures - we wanted to have a very inclusive cover and including a person who was transgender is one of our goals. The issue is how to do so while being respectful but also making the art narrative identify the person as transgender. For many comic book characters that are transgender, this is usually done through text information or through them being outed in the story somehow.

I have been going over multiple ways to do this effectively, but every option I seem to have would out the character in some way or risk becoming a parody. I can give instruction to the artist to make the character have visual facial characteristics that read as either male or female but have the clothing be of the opposite gender, but then it gets misread or read as a parody by the viewer. I could have a clothing malfunction reveal a biological difference from the presented gender, but then that is an outing and also risks being disrespectful.

I'm not sure it is possible to do this without outing the character in some way, but if they don't read as transgender, then how would a transgender gamer look at the cover and say "Hey, that person is like me.". The same issue would occur with someone of any religious background or sexual orientation unless you were to use stereotypical visual cues. Before giving up and making the character transgender "secretly - i.e. only known to the project team or written up in a liner note that few would read", I wanted to ask members of the transgender community. I am not part of the transgender community, and I do not want to ask any of my friends who are transgender but have not openly stated this to me so as not to hurt their feelings.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and see what the opinions of members of the transgender community are in how best to display a transgender person respectfully but clearly in this cover art.

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Christine
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Re: Need Advice On How To Portray A Transgender Person In Ar

Postby Christine » Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:09 am

Although it depends on the individual person in question (and also exactly what you mean by transgender: in this context, I'll assume transsexual), I'm not sure that you can, really, as it's ultimately the goal of most transsexuals to pass as their identified gender without anything conspicuous going on, however subtle. In my case, I'd be upset if I was portrayed as anything other than a woman, for instance, and I don't seem to be seen as anything but: I have posted before-and-after pictures: I'm not sure that would really fit into your concept, but it would be one means of doing so.

The other alternative might be to include somebody who's genderfluid or some such, though there's then the risk of this being seen as synonymous with other people who identify as trans-whatever.

Or in short, "eek". :D

JohnArcadian

Re: Need Advice On How To Portray A Transgender Person In Ar

Postby JohnArcadian » Thu Oct 09, 2014 4:03 pm

Hi Christine,

Eek indeed. You've hit the nail on the head for the issue with the art. If I have the artist portray someone who reads in all ways visually as female, there is no way to have the intended effect - that someone who is transgender or transsexual looks at the cover and says "Hey, that's me there!"

Any way I've come up with or talked to artists about to reveal that nature is exactly that, a reveal that represents betrayal of someone's representation of themselves. While an individual person (if it were a photograph) could make that choice for their own image and experience, doing a piece of art becomes a representation of a subset of people, even if the art is based off of someone known or a depiction of someone in the popular media.

I am tending to think that having it be a thing only known to the design team or written up in the liner notes is the most respectful way to do it, but then it loses any impact when looking at the cover.

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Re: Need Advice On How To Portray A Transgender Person In Ar

Postby Christine » Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:17 am

I'm just sorry I seem to be unable to come up with any other ideas! I guess I'm just not that artistically creative...

I think I'll just stick with my sole idea of a before-and-after approach: perhaps two pictures of the same group of people standing in the same position, one "then", a few years back, one "now", which could show the character before and after transition without any risk of the usual stereotypes that make many trans-people a little twitchy. But that assumes that such an approach would fit into the overall concept.

But just to reiterate, to use myself as an example, although I see myself as being under the "trans" umbrella for the duration of my actual transition or when referring to it, at all other times I'm just another woman: there are no identifying stand-out features, which is how I want things to be.


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Re: Need Advice On How To Portray A Transgender Person In Art

Postby Guest » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:27 pm

I'm looking for advice from the transgender community on how to portray a transgender person respectfully and accurately on a piece of cover art I am putting together for an upcoming book.


If I have the artist portray someone who reads in all ways visually as female, there is no way to have the intended effect - that someone who is transgender or transsexual looks at the cover and says "Hey, that's me there!"


The answer seems pretty obvious to me. Tread the line between someone who passes as female convincingly and someone who passes terribly to the point that it becomes potentially comedic to the average viewer.

This character should not pass as female. But they also shouldnt look downright bad either. She should look female only if one takes a quick glance. If one looks at her for any time beyond that, they should be able to pick up that she is trans. Which I dont thik is disrespectful, as its where most trans women are in reality I think. But the character wouldnt be ugly, or someone who looks really male but with a wig. Because I think a real trans woman who looked like that would be quite upset. I think respect isnt about just showing off an easily palatable ideal. I think respect and true skill involves showing the less than ideal and treating it seriously.



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